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Tech Team

Kia ora dedicated TechAways readers, 

This is Sarah Cumming presenting this locked-down 2.0 edition. As a member of Cambre’s tech team, I trade on all things digital and competition. While the US elections kept us gripped last week, the heat has been turned up again on the EU competition scene. On Tuesday, Competition Tsarina Vestager laid long-awaited formal charges against Amazon for allegedly using non-public data gathered on sales on its website to inform its own-label products. Simultaneously, the Commission announced opening a second antitrust investigation against the giant to look into the company’s possible preferential treatment of its own products and of marketplace sellers who paid extra for Amazon’s logistics and delivery services. Topical cases as the EU is gearing up to present its Digital Market Act on December 2, including ex ante rules to regulate large online platforms and a new competition tool to avoid markets tipping. Perhaps this is the “tremendous” data test case competition geeks have been waiting for? It will in any case be challenging. Germany’s National Competition Authority has been investigating Amazon’s use of data for the last two years – and for the moment to no avail. Data and competition are a thorny tango. Suspense!

Spotify is keeping an ear on you… 👀 👂 [The Verge 

It happened again. You spent a fleeting second checking out that jumper online… and now it’s all over your newsfeed. Dynamic advertising, i.e. tweaking ads based on user data, is hitting the music streaming industry too, thanks to a new deal Spotify signed this week with podcast hosting company Megaphone. Think about it: Spotify already knows your name, where you live, your age, what music you like. The platform will now also have access to targeted ad technology plus data on how third-party podcasts are performing. This can mean your Spotify will promote new content you may actually enjoy… as long as you stream your five-year-old’s fav shows on another account! 

Parler parlay [The Verge 

Since the US elections, laments of stolen elections went viral on a new social media platform: Parler, the conservative alternative to Twitter. With almost 1 million downloads since election day, Parler is your social media, if you wish to spread the “stop the steal campaign”. If you haven’t heard of the site, according to Wikipedia, the Twitter knock-off is favoured by “Trump supporters, conservatives, and Saudi nationalists.” Parler users reportedly turned to the site to get around Twitter’s content moderation policies. However, it seems that Parler’s approach are actually more restrictive as it reserves the right to “remove any content and terminate your access” to the platform “at any time and for any reason or no reason.” A certain idea of free speech. 

Hyperloop travel soon a reality  [The BBC]  

Fancy a ride on a Hyperloop? In 2013, Elon Musk once described the concept of HyperLoop as a “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table.” It has now become reality. Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop completed the world’s first passenger ride on a high-speed levitating pod system this week. In the Nevada desert, the pod reached 276 km/hr using magnetic levitation to allow near-silent travel and reach superfast speeds. The company aims to develop a future with floating pods packed with passengers and cargo through vacuum tubes at 966 km/hr or faster. Twice as fast as a commercial jet flight! Get ready to buckle up your seat belt – commercial Hyperloop rides could be experienced as soon as 2030

Apocalypse clothing [The Verge]  

What will you be wearing tomorrow? “100-year” pants with a fireproof jacket? Such could be fashion’s future. As the Earth is moving more inhospitable and some are prepping to visit Mars, companies are launching clothes to withhold extreme environments and piquing NASA’s interest. Pure science-fiction clothing for outer space could well become your new normal tomorrow. The existing full metal jacket has taken my fancy. A windbreaker made from 65 percent copper that’s designed to be antiviral, it aims to prevent humans from transporting harmful diseases and pathogens to other planets. Not sure I would ever set a foot on Mars, but it looks like perfect pandemic clothing.  

A troll has lost. His legacy lives on [The Atlantic] 

There’s no question that Trump drastically changed the internet over the last five years. He was the meme god who made it to the White House, and many argue that after his election, the Internet became a much darker place. Beyond once innocent memes turning into political-ad placement, his party also introduced Section 230 to mainstream discourse. In 2015, Section 230 was an unknown issue – today there have been viral hashtags calling for its repeal – on both sides of the aisle. So while Trump’s administration is over, his internet legacy will live on – not only in its memeification, but also in the hunt to repeal Section 230 which would drastically change the internet.

About this week’s editor, Sarah Cumming

I’ve been at Cambre for one and a half years focusing on tech, competition and trade issues. A qualified lawyer, I practiced competition and international litigation before moving to public affairs. A kiwi-frog (🇳🇿/ 🇫🇷), I always look forward to the next Rugby World Cup. Always fun with the best of two worlds to cheer for! 

In case you haven’t had enough… 

Eve Online video game helps scientists understand Covid-19 [BBC] 

After deepfakes, a new frontier of AI trickery: fake faces [FT] 

Dutch government pilots technology to cut e-bike road deaths [The Guardian] 

How Twitter Policed Trump During the Election [The New York Times] 

Monster wolf robots [The Guardian]  

AI’s Potential to Manage the Supply Chain [Technewsworld] 

The untold story of a cyberattack, a hospital and a dying woman [Wired] 

Chilled camels could help us all to keep our cool [The Times]